Curse of the Golden Flower (2006)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2007-01-21
A few notes on “Curse of the Golden Flower”

Gong Li remains one of the most beautiful movie actresses working today—to striking looking that her it can overshadow her acting, which is was one of the high points of this movie.

Chow Yun Fat looked odd and out of place as a ninth century Emperor and all the constructive editing in the world can’t make him a credible action star. His acting ability and screen presence saved what was an extremely underwritten role.

Li Man, for whom this is the only credit (as opposed to about 65 for Chow and 28 for Gong Li) is breathtakingly beautiful and may develop into an actress. If so she will take the movie world by storm.

It is clear that Chen Jin, who has only one additional credit listed, is an experienced and talented actress who has been working somewhere—she was terrific.

The movie was both overblown and dull. The grandiosity of the set design, costumes and the entire mise en scene drew attention to itself to the detriment of character development, plot credibility (even within the universe created by the Zhang Yimou and his collaborators) and cinematography. The sheer size and scope of the Palace, the ninjas riding impossibly long steel wires, the interiors that were just missing a rotating mirrored ball to become a 1970s disco—after a short time all the “Gee Whiz” moments became boring. There was no suspense in the movie, no heightened awareness that something unusual was about to happen—most to what the characters did was shocking but none of it was surprising. Plots against the emperor, fratricide, poisonings, incest, sudden appearance of characters who had died years before, heroic stands against impossible odds—situations used by Shakespeare, O’Neill, Beaumarchais and many others, but much more effectively. In order for the audience to be moved we have to care about the characters who are doing these things. In “Curse of the Golden Flower” Chan and wife of the Imperial Doctor are the only sympathetic characters. Even Chan, for all her youth and beauty, has a lot to answer for but in the insane world of the Palace her crimes are no more than misdemeanors.

Just about everything on the screen is excessive. If a quart of blood sprayed on the walls looks good then a gallon will look better. Don’t bother killing hundreds of soldiers when thousands are available for slaughter. If a staircase of one hundred steps leading to a terrace is impressive, then one of five hundred will really knock them out. The weird costuming for the female characters—every one of them in every scene, I think—has already been commented upon and may be the most excessive aspect of this bloated movie.

This was an expensive movie and every dollar wound up on the screen—which in this case was not a good idea. More was definitely in this “Curse”.
Reviewer Score: 6